In recent years, Amazon.com has killed or undermined privacy protections in more than three dozen bills across 25 states, as the e-commerce giant amassed a lucrative trove of personal data on millions of American consumers.
Amazon executives and staffers detail these lobbying victories in confidential documents. In Virginia, the company boosted political donations tenfold over four years before persuading lawmakers this year to pass an industry-friendly privacy bill that Amazon itself drafted. In California, the company stifled proposed restrictions on the industry’s collection and sharing of consumer voice recordings gathered by tech devices.
And in its home state of Washington, Amazon won so many exemptions and amendments to a bill regulating biometric data, such as voice recordings or facial scans, that the resulting 2017 law had little, if any impact on its practices, according to an internal Amazon document.
The architect of this under-the-radar campaign to smother privacy protections has been Jay Carney, who previously served as communications director for Joe Biden, when Biden was vice president, and as press secretary for President Barack Obama. One 2018 document reviewing executives’ goals for the prior year listed privacy regulation as a primary target for Carney.
Change or block US and EU regulation/legislation that would impede growth for Alexa-powered devices, referring to Amazon popular voice-assistant technology. The mission included defeating restrictions on artificial intelligence and biometric technologies, along with blocking efforts to make companies disclose the data they keep on consumers.
The document listed Carney as the goal primary owner and celebrated killing or amending privacy bills in over 20 states.
This story is based on a review of hundreds of internal Amazon documents and interviews with more than 70 lobbyists, advocates, policymakers and their staffers involved in legislation
A Force for good
Carney and his deputies set the tone for a more aggressive lobbying operation early in his tenure, drafting a strategy memo for a new global corporate-affairs department that combined public-policy and public-relations teams. The memo was written in 2015 with the help of communications executive Drew Herdener and public-policy leader Brian Huseman.